Around the Bluhmin’ Town
Freedom. What we live and die for. Not available to all living creatures. Experienced by many. Taken for granted by some. Now an orca named Lolita in Florida might have a taste of freedom after 52 years in captivity. Living in a tank and being a “show-whale” at the Miami Seaquarium takes its toll on orcas, who live longer in the ocean than they do in captivity. Now an endangered species, there is a commitment to release Lolita to the ocean from which she was captured. A daunting task.
With enlightenment comes responsibility. People have changed their views over time when it comes to exploitation of wildlife. We shutter at the thought of how circus animals were treated, or some zoos created stark and sad living conditions for caged animals. We watched with horror the documentary “Blackfish” in 2015 and almost immediately attitudes about whales jumping through hoops and blasting out of the water to our amusement became disdainful.
In the late 1880s through the early 1900s horses were made to run up on platforms that were sixty feet high and jump off into lakes or pools of water. The crowds cheered the spectacle of a diving horse, as it was a major attraction at State Fairs. Women often rode the horses making it even more of a breath-taking show.
Finally, animal advocate groups shut down the “frightful abuse” of horses. The President of the Humane Society of the United States stated, “This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea.” So we moved on, as a culture, to other colossally stupid ideas. And I guess we are all part of it. I took the grandkids many times to Sea World in San Diego. They wanted to sit in the front rows so we would get splashed (soaked) by Shamu the Whale. Now, Sea World’s focus is on education and less on “performance.”
Lolita, the orca, was first called a Native American name, Tokitae. She was captured at the age of four in 1970, in Puget Sound. She spent decades entertaining crowds before falling ill. Now, she is slated to be transported in what is a daring and risky endeavor, back to the Pacific Northwest. Lolita’s mother, Ocean Sun, swims free in the ocean with other members of their clan. There might be a reunion.
Lolita will be flown to Washington State and then kept in an open sea pen, while she learns to swim freely in open water and catch her own fish. It will be a learning curve. She must also develop muscles to swim long distances. None of this will be easy, cheap, or quick. It takes time to help a 7,000-pound whale develop survival skills. The cost could be 15 million dollars, paid for by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indiana Colts. The price of freedom is never cheap.
One day, it is possible that Lolita will meet her mother again. Through changes in our beliefs about wildlife, we may never again see a 20 ft long whale forced to live in an 80 ft long tank. Now this is something to cheer about.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Contact Judy at [email protected] or at www.aroundthebluhmintown.com.
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